PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Our winter weather may have you planning a quick getaway to someplace warm, but how do you know if you’re getting the best deal on airfare and accommodations?
You could spend hours searching the Internet or you could use a travel agent to save you time and money.
“The Internet has been the best thing that ever happened to travel… to good travel agencies. The rotten ones are a dead and dying breed,” said Kathy Duvall, a travel agent.
In fact, the number of travel agents has been cut in half over the last 15 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but those still standing are thriving.
The American Society of Travel Agents says the country’s 64,000 agents account for 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States.
“Hiring an experienced travel agent can be a great idea if you’ve got a complicated trip or if you’re traveling internationally,” says Angie Hicks, of Angie’s List. “They’ll be able to coordinate the hotels, the airfare, any tours you want to take, and they may have access to special packages that you couldn’t find on your own.”
“We have contacts and friends everywhere,” said Duvall. “Not only with the wholesalers that offer these resorts, but also with the on-the-ground transfer people, the general managers, the sales people, everybody.”
Worried about getting stranded at the airport?
A good travel agent will track your progress and step in when things go wrong, like a connecting flight that gets canceled while you’re already in route.
“They text me. I say, ‘No worries, I’ll follow your plane,’” Duvall said. “By the time they land and they’re late, their flight information has already been updated. I text them – here’s your next flight, go catch it, have a great time.”
“If your vacation plans are more simple, for example a weekend away or a vacation you take every year, a travel agent may not be worth the investment. But if you’re thinking about a resort vacation or a cruise, tapping into the expertise of a travel agent may be a great idea,” said Hicks.
Hicks says many agents are paid by the hotels and other vendors they work with, so there may be no fee for you to use one.